How to Create Screencasts in Linux is exploring the possibility of creating screencasts for our users, so that we can quickly visualize some of the tutorials that might make more sense in a video format. In researching this, we found an awful lot of software for desktop recording. These programs can differ widely in features like video quality, performance, and compatibility. In this guide we’ll cover an app called recordMyDesktop which makes desktop recording a very simple process.

Getting recordMyDesktop

The core of recordMyDesktop is a command line tool, however there are useful graphical front ends available for KDE and Gnome. We’ll be using the Gnome version for this guide. Ubuntu users can install via the command

sudo apt-get install gtk-recordmydesktop

Otherwise, it can be downloaded manually from their Sourceforge site.

How it Works

The Gnome front end will add an icon to your panel when the app is running. This icon can be clicked to start and stop recording at any time. When started, recordMyDesktop will make a video of everything on your screen (or in a particular region, we’ll get to that) and save it in Ogg Theora format to your home directory. Live audio can be included in your recording as well, or disabled completely with the checkbox.

Setting Up Your Video

Once you start up gtk-recordmydesktop, you’ll get the main config screen.


There are several important options here. For starters, you can see that there are slider bars to set the quality of the output. As with most things of this type, higher quality means a larger output file and slower encoding.

Another useful option to consider is the Select Window. With this, you can either choose a particular window to record or drag a box over the thumbnail view.

Advanced Options

Most of the advanced options can be safely left alone and will work fine, however there are a few you might want to check, particularly in the Performance section. The defaults will work fine for most, however if you want higher quality or your machine is fast enough to encode on the fly, you may find some useful settings here.


Handling Your Output

As noted earlier, recordMyDesktop will save to an Ogg video format. Each video recorded will be saved to your home as out.ogv, out-1.ogv, out-2.ogv, etc. If you wish, you can use a video editor of your choice to make any needed edits to your file. Not all video editors can handle Ogg video, but there are a multitude of tools available to convert to different formats within Linux.

One simple way to convert to a more widely available format is with the command:

mencoder -ovc lavc -oac copy -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4 -o NAMEOFOUTPUTFILE.avi NAMEOFINPUTFILE.ogv

which will save into a compressed MPEG4 file.

If you want to convert into another format without losing a single pixel of data, you may instead wish to convert into a lossless format so that you can open it in other programs without losing any quality. In that case, you could use the very similar command:

mencoder -ovc lavc -oac copy -lavcopts vcodec=ffv1 -o NAMEOFOUTPUTFILE.avi NAMEOFINPUTFILE.ogv

If you have a another desktop recorder you prefer, or have a better encoding suggestion, please let us know in the comments!

Joshua Price

Josh Price is a senior MakeTechEasier writer and owner of Rain Dog Software

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